Three persuasive speaking techniques, as demonstrated by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg


There are a number of different techniques that can be employed by speakers to deliver a persuasive presentation capable of engaging an audience, and it is important to be mindful of how you will convey your message.

At Inc., presentation and communications skills expert Deborah Grayson Riegel writes that Facebook chief operating officer and Lean In founder Sheryl Sandberg employed three techniques to deliver an engaging message in her recent Wall Street Journal presentation, Ending Gender Inequality at Work.

“In a three-minute-18-second clip, she petitioned her colleagues to speak up against gender inequality — and to levy consequences for those who tolerate it,” Riegel says.

“Sandberg could have taken a predictable approach to [a] familiar topic, but instead brought personal credibility, powerful research and fresh insights to her speech, engaging the audience from [the] very start.”

Involving the audience

Riegel observes that Sandberg immediately engaged her audience by asking how many people believe it is okay if one in 10 subway stations run on time.

“Her question required people to participate physically, intellectually and emotionally, meaning that they were drawn in from the very beginning — and likely to keep paying attention,” Riegel writes.

Staying current

A topic will be made more relevant by linking it to current issues and developments, and this was another technique used by Sandberg in her talk.

“When she said, ‘We can’t tolerate Harvey Weinstein-like behaviour’, she helped people understand both the immediacy of the problem and its ongoing relevance,” Riegel says.

“She also helped create an emotional response from the audience (indicated by the applause she received after making that remark). And when people feel something, they’re more likely to do something.”

Being vulnerable

Personal vulnerability can further build a connection with an audience.

In her presentation, Riegel says Sandberg admitted to having bias, making her more relatable.

“She isn’t showing that she’s immune to the problem,” Riegel writes.

“She’s demonstrating that she understands the challenge personally, from experience, and is still willing to work on being part of the solution.

“By revealing that she wrestles with what we wrestle with, Sandberg builds trust and empathy with her listeners.”

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